Board Takes Up Contract Bids

County 'Ready To Go' With New Towson Elementary School Building

April 21, 2009|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,

Contracts for a new Towson elementary school are to come before the Baltimore County Board of Education on Tuesday, including bids for site improvements and excavation.

"This is just the next big step," said Michael Sines, the school system's executive director of physical facilities. "We are exactly where we want to be."

The three contracts - for testing site materials, excavation and concrete work, among other things - are "simply the first group" of more than a dozen contracts that will be brought to the board as the project progresses, Sines said. Utility work has already been done on the campus on Charles Street, next to Ridge Ruxton School.

Items involving the construction of the building are to go to the school board in June, Sines said.

The board is also expected to vote Tuesday night on a name for the new facility. In February, district officials proposed "West Towson Elementary," after a review of historical records of the area and input from the five school communities that will be affected.

The county plans to advance part of the state's contribution to the construction project, officials said last week. The state's portion of the slightly more than $25 million project is about $7 million, said Erin Roberts, the county executive's education liaison. The state has already approved $1.6 million of that amount, she said.

"We're going to pay for the building to get built this year," Roberts said. "We have the money available, and we're ready to go."

The new facility, meant to relieve overcrowding in several Towson-area schools, is scheduled to open August 2010.

Last year, parents spent months pushing for some kind of resolution to the crowding problem. Rodgers Forge Elementary in particular has been contending with large numbers, standing at nearly 80 percent over its capacity as of Sept. 30 - and expecting to have almost 120 kindergartners and 160 first-graders this fall, according to Principal Susan L. Deise. Next school year, fourth-graders are to be moved to neighboring Dumbarton Middle - a temporary measure until the new facility is built, school officials have said.

Several parents have questioned whether the new school will be completed on time.

"I think they're on the right path for it," said Kevin Burns, whose twins go to Rodgers Forge.

Still, Burns said, he's concerned about the timeline. "I keep my fingers crossed, but I'm not holding my breath."

Cathi Forbes, chairwoman of the grass-roots group Towson Families United, said she was relieved and grateful for the recognition at the state and county levels of the need for the project, even in difficult economic times.

"It's clear to me that the school system knows the urgency of the problem," Forbes said.

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